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Secretary's Message

November 13, 2018

Department of Juvenile Justice’s Weekly Letter

This past Sunday, our nation commemorated Veterans Day, a day in which we honor all those who have served in the United States Armed Forces. While most  of us observed this holiday with a day off from work, we hope that you will take a moment to reflect and remember why Veterans Day is so important. This day celebrates those that have served our country faithfully in order to uphold our freedoms and the ideals we hold most sacred.

We are thankful for the service of our military men and women, especially our DJJ staff who have proudly served this great nation. We appreciate the sacrifice, bravery and commitment of our veterans and hope you will remember to honor them not only on Veterans Day, but every day.


Interim Secretary Timothy Niermann

Staff Announcements and Kudos

Congratulations to Sergeant Felisia Paul from the Orange Regional Juvenile Detention Center (RJDC) for winning the Orange Biggest Loser Competition! The contest was not only excellent team building activity but a way for staff to focus on healthy weight, while having a friendly competition.

During the Circuit 5 Probation Office quarterly meeting, the following staff members were recognized as Employees of the Quarter: Latrice Barron, Richard Huchingson, Chris Bray, Jennifer Alcantar, Ian Harper and Walter Boley. Each of them do their best every day for the youth in their communities. Chief Reynolds is very thankful for all the efforts that are put forth by his staff.

Pictured left to right: Latrice Barron (Marion Unit 402), Richard Huchingson (Lake Unit 301), Chris Bray (Lake Unit 402), Jennifer Alcantar (Marion Unit 403), Ian Harper (Hernando Unit 201), Walter Boley (Citrus/Sumter Units 101 A/B) 

We want to send best wishes to Corporal Timothy Langford who recently retired following 30 years of service to the state of Florida.  The staff at Orange RJDC celebrated with a cake and presentation of a certificate to Corporal Langford.

Congratulations to Joyce Slater, administrative assistant at the Brevard RJDC, who was selected as the Central Detention Support Staff for August.

Pictured (from left to right): Capt. Derrick Cason, Major Margie McKinney, Ms. Slater, and Capt. Edward Guerra

Congratulations to Supervisor Roosevelt Butler from Brevard RJDC, who was selected as the Central Detention Supervisor of the Month for September.

Pictured (from left to right): Capt. Derrick Cason, Major Margie McKinney, Sgt. Butler, and Capt. Edward Guerra.

Congratulations to JDO I DeVante Randolph from the Volusia RJDC, who was selected as Detention Services Employee of the Month for September 2018.  

Pictured (from left to right): Captain A. Akin, JDO Randolph, Major P. Finn 

Residential Youth Awarded a Top Spot in National Song Writing Competition

This October, the Campaign for Youth Justice and its annual Youth Justice Action Month (YJAM) partnered with the Center for Educational Excellence in Alternative Settings (CEEAS) to sponsor Unsung, the Voices of Youth Justice. Unsung was a nationwide initiative designed to give incarcerated students the opportunity to create and share songs about issues that concern them, with a focus on taking action during the upcoming elections. Hundreds of students, held in youth or adult correctional facilities across the country, worked independently and in small teams to create songs. Volunteer judges listened to the recordings and a small panel, including musician Aloe Blacc, selected the five winning songs. The results, produced using the online collaborative music and podcasting recording studio, Soundtrap, offer a beautiful, but often gut-wrenching glimpse at the challenges that system-involved teens and young adults face--at home, while incarcerated, as they stand before a judge.

T.H. a resident at Okeechobee Girls Academy (OGA) was awarded fifth place with her poignant and reflective piece entitled “We All Belong”. Under the guidance of Okeechobee’s Lead Educator Hope Sheppard, as well as the encouragement and resourcefulness of OGA teacher Ms. DeSarro, the youth expressed her pain regarding the loss of her brother and the plea for society to come together in light of recent events happening around the country.  

The songs remind us of the untapped intellect and creativity of students in juvenile facilities across the country. Congratulations to T.H. and all of the youth who submitted their songs. You can access the five winning songs HERE as a youtube playlist.  

Shop with the Florida Juvenile Justice Foundation This Holiday Season

The Florida Juvenile Justice Foundation (FJJF) has teamed up with Amazon Smile to provide a convenient and philanthropic way for you to support FJJF every time you shop, at no cost to you. When you shop through AmazonSmile at http://smile.amazon.com, you’ll find the exact same low prices, vast selection and convenient shopping experience as Amazon.com, with the added bonus that Amazon will donate 0.5% of the purchase price to FJJF.  Tens of millions of products on AmazonSmile are eligible for donations.

Simply go to AmazonSmile  anytime you want to make a purchase on Amazon and search “Florida Juvenile Justice Foundation” in the search box as your charity. The proceeds from your purchase will go to FJJF and benefit our children who are in need. Add a bookmark to AmazonSmile to make it even easier to return and start your shopping at AmazonSmile.  It’s convenient, charitable and the perfect way to shop for the upcoming holidays.  Thank you for supporting an important cause and making a difference in the lives of our youth!

SAG and CAB Members Come Together During DJJ Restoring Hope Training

The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention State Advisory Group (SAG) and Juvenile Justice Circuit Advisory Board (CAB) chairs recently met to conduct joint business during DJJ’s Restoring Hope Training in Orlando. The SAG meeting was highlighted by a visit from Federal Compliance Analyst and Program Manager Didier Moncion from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP). Mr. Moncion complimented Florida on progress made over the years and pledged to work closely with the state on compliance issues.

Also attending the SAG meeting was State Compliance Monitor Shirley Turner with Correctional Management & Communications Group.

In photo above: Prevention Assistant Secretary Alice Sims delivered opening comments at the joint SAG/CAB meeting

The SAG highlights include discussions on 2019 community initiatives, the 2019 meeting calendar, the 2019 collaborative retreat, Title II budget, OJJDP training and SAG recruitment.

During CAB chair training, CAB Coordinator Tina Levene asked for a moment of silence for victims and survivors of Hurricane Michael, recent shootings and other tragedies.

Discussion topics included CAB chair roles and responsibilities, a new request for proposal (RFP) process, mock CAB meeting, including Sunshine Law/Robert’s Rules of Order. Lt. Brad Butler from the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office was recognized for his assistance in the Circuit 9 CAB Bridging the GAAP Conversations between youth and law enforcement that involve them kayaking together. He is pictured above receiving his recognition along with Policy Chief Marcus Smith and Delinquency Specialist Dionne Anderson. 

Delinquency Prevention Specialist Willie Smith III (left) served as a guest speaker during the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Career Day event at Northwestern Middle School in Jacksonville. 5000 Role Models is an organization established within the Duval County Public Schools, managed by Mr. Lawrence Hills Jr. The ultimate objective is to intervene in the lives of at-risk minority male youth to provide positive role models and experiences empowering them to make good choices, encourage healthy living, responsibility, respect and achievement. 

The 5000 Role Models of Excellence Career Day at Northwestern Middle School was uplifting and inspired youth to be hopeful, to remain positive as they embarked upon tackling tests, and to continue to be strong within their environments. Over 30 professionals heeded the call for the career day. Professional careers ranged from law enforcement, including deputies from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, to educators, authors, and pharmaceutical sales representatives.  

A debriefing was held following the career day to discuss new and innovative ways to tackle issues the youth at Northwestern Middle School face on a day-to-day basis. They brainstormed on future initiatives, additional exposure to education, technology, implementing principles and examples of sustainability relating to a positive environment.

We’re pleased to share the following success story regarding youth Gina from the PACE Center for Girls Pinellas:

When Gina arrived at PACE Center for Girls, Pinellas in August 2015, she was behind academically and had not attended school for the past two years. Gina was suffering from severe anxiety and depression. The only supportive people in Gina’s life were her grandmother and paternal aunt but her relationship with them was strained due to family discord. Gina’s aunt learned about PACE and felt it would be the perfect setting to help Gina get on track. Gina thrived in the supportive environment provided at PACE. She was motivated by her success and her desire to make her grandmother proud. Gina excelled quickly, earned straight A’s, and caught up two grade levels. Gina was proud of her success and in August 2017, felt she was ready to enroll in a traditional high school. Initially Gina did well, until her grandmother passed unexpectedly, then shortly after due to family circumstances, Gina had to drop out of school to take care of her four-year-old brother. Gina was devastated and fell back into depression. Gina called the one place she knew would help her get back on track with her goals. Gina reenrolled at PACE in August 2018 and she is happy to be back at PACE. Gina says now that her grandmother is no longer with her, PACE is her only family. Gina is thankful for the support and guidance she receives from PACE. Gina is on track to graduate one year early from high school. She plans to attend college and major in English Literature. 

Delinquency Prevention Specialist Willie Smith III recently attended the graduation ceremonies for AMIkids of Jacksonville. The AMIkids program in Jacksonville is a four to six-month non-residential program which provides mental health counseling and GED prep to those youth in need.

Following graduation, five youth received their GEDs and an additional three completed the program. Denalvo Wilson was the keynote speaker and is a former graduate of AMI. He explained how he overcame being convicted as an adult at age 15 and how he turned his life around and became a successful businessman. J.T., one of the AMI graduates, received numerous certifications towards achieving his goal of working in construction. He will also be speaking at the C.O.R.E. training regarding his experience with AMIkids and how the program has helped him achieve his goals.

Juvenile Probation Officers Receive Accolades at Superstar Event

Eckerd Connects’ Project Bridge staff from Circuits 9 and 18 gathered to honor and recognize the hard work and success of nominated superstars. The Beyond Institute of Kissimmee hosted the 7th quarterly Superstar Event, providing the event space, décor and food. Project Bridge staff nominated Circuit 9 JPO Crystal Harris as this quarter's JPO Spotlight for her loyal and dedicated service to our youth. Project Bridge staff and youth were encouraged and moved by the inspirational and personal testimony of defeat and triumph from one of our very own Circuit 9 JPOs, Jeffery Jones. Youth were also presented with a Superstar trophies and publicly affirmed for their success and hard work. 

Circuit 18 Probation, in collaboration with Lyman High School and Northland Church, recently hosted a seminar for local young people and their families. Vice Principle Nathalie Cumbie, founder of Positive Support Systems, presented empowerment topics for parents and students. Three breakout sessions focused on topics such as financial literacy, social responsibility for the students, and resources for parents. The plan is to track the students’ progress for continued support.  Special kudos to Circuit 18’s juvenile probation officers for the referrals and transportation for our families.  

Project Connect and the Circuit 4 Probation Office teamed with Jacksonville’s Kids Hope Alliance to offer transition and aftercare services for every high/max youth placement from Duval County. The Kids Hope Alliance (KHA) is the city’s new children and youth services organization that replaced the Jacksonville Children’s Commission. They are led by Chief Executive Officer Joe Peppers and recently launched their new Essential Services Plan at a public event in downtown Jacksonville. 

Project Connect Transition Specialist (TS) Lemar Colleton serves the youth placed in this unique program which offers the same benefits that traditional Project Connect services afford.  TS Colleton recently treated some of the youth on his Project Connect – KHA caseload to an afternoon of bowling and pizza, and even awarded the winning bowler with a $20 prize. The non-traditional outing was well received by the youth. They had fun learning the game and experiencing a new, positive recreational outing. 

Reform Specialist Donna Collins from Circuit 4 Probation had the honor of attending the “One More Child” press conference, reception and dinner with the First Lady of Guatemala Patricia Marroquin de Morales, on behalf of our agency. One More Child is a faith-based organization with the goal of reaching out to children through meals, foster homes, single mom housing, anti-trafficking, child hunger and family support. First Baptist is a partner with One More Child and First Lady Marroquin came to thank all the contributors who work so hard to help these children and their families. 

Ms. Collins also had the opportunity to present at DJJ’s Restoring Hope Conference. At the conference, Mrs. Collins and the Circuit Chaplain Bernard Collins had the honor of facilitating a session on “Faith Network and the Community Working Together, Best Practice.”  The session was well received, and we appreciated the opportunity to share something that Circuit Four has been doing for the past seven years.  

Recently in Circuit 7, Youth T.L. and his family have been experiencing some financial hardship. The youth’s mother indicated to Project Connect Lead Transition Specialist (LTS) Monica Simpson that he was in need of school uniforms.  A family member of LTS Simpson had previously stated that they wanted to help a youth that was in need of school supplies or uniforms. Remembering this conversation, LTS Simpson reached out to her family member to request assistance for the young man and they gladly offered to help. Through this generous donation, LTS Simpson was able to get Youth T.L. much needed school uniforms and socks so he would be better equipped to attend school regularly.  Youth T.L. and family were extremely happy and appreciative of the donation, and LTS Simpson felt blessed for her efforts.  

Each year, the Circuit 10 Probation team in Bartow participates in the cities Halloween festivities. The staff decorated the building hallways and wore costumes during trick or treat time. We had 175 children and 125 adults partake in this fun-filled day. Six local daycare centers visited the office and had children dressed in costume walk through the hallways trick-or-treating from staff. The City of Bartow is celebrating 70 years of providing community Halloween festivities, which Circuit 10 DJJ Probation has happily participated in!

AMIkids Gainesville recently hosted a Breast Cancer Awareness program with Nicole Johnson of Blossoming Butterflies serving as guest speaker. She shared her story on how she has defeated breast cancer. She challenged the students to thrive through difficult times, as they will make you stronger and appreciate life. AMIkids concluded the program with pink punch, cookies and cupcakes.

Detention Youth Cast Their Election Ballots and Participate in Art Projects

Escambia RJDC Youth participated in Tuesday’s elections, assisted by the education department. Youth were informed of each candidate as well as educated on history and the importance of voting. Thank you to the Escambia team for helping the youth learn about elections and participate in the process.

The girls at Manatee RJDC participated in an art project for women at shelters for human trafficking.  Traffickers use violence, threats, deception and other manipulative tactics to trap victims in horrific situations, often targeting the most vulnerable population—homeless youth.

The girls had fun listening to music, dancing, and enjoying treats from detention center’s volunteers. The items they created will be sent to the shelters. 

The Palm Beach Regional Detention Center has recently partnered up with the Little Free Library (LFL). The detention center became the 118th library box house in West Palm Beach. A special thank you goes out to Chief Public Defender Megan Eaton. Ms. Eaton spearheaded the collaboration between both DJJ and LFL. The youth also received 600 reading books for all reading levels to utilize during special visits with their younger siblings or children. Thank you also to the facility advisory board, Captain Sanders, Captain Jacobs and facility staff. The youth will also be allowed to take books home with them as they are being released from the facility.

The Leon Regional Juvenile Detention Center recently held its bi-annual all-hands meeting for their staff members at the facility. The meeting was catered with a lunch from the Leon RJDC’s facility advisory board. The meeting consisted of trainings, congratulations and acknowledgements for staff members. The food provided included chicken, pork, ribs, cole slaw and baked beans.

Girls from the Volusia RJDC took part in an art project where they personalized their own journals. The project was part of the detention center’s Very Special Art Program and the girls will keep the journals in their sleeping rooms and are permitted to journal during free time in the mod area.

The Southwest RJDC recently supported breast cancer awareness by showing their support against the disease for Sheva Rolle, the mother of JJDOI Shanika Rolle.

Staff attended a two-mile “Making Strides Against Breast Cancer” walk, wore pink studded ribbons, pink breast cancer awareness shirts and pink and white breast cancer awareness bracelets. 

The youth learned about the disease and the importance of early detection, made posters, decorated socks, sported pink tee shirts, and wrote thank you notes to an organization supporting breast cancer awareness. They also took part in a balloon release.

This event came together with the extra help of the boys and girls of Southwest RJDC, JJDOI Shanika Rolle, Facility Training Coordinator JJDOII Frelicia Davis, Captain Rodney Goss and JJDOI Ingrid Perez-Wynne.

The youth at Brevard RJDC enjoyed a special Halloween meal The dining area was nicely decorated and the youth took part in some food, sweet treats and a lot of fun.

Residential Youth Take Part in Veteran Affairs Homeless Stand Down Event

Okaloosa Youth Academy, a non-secure program for boys operated by Gulf Coast Treatment Center, was invited to participate in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)’s Homeless Stand Down at Striving for Perfection Ministries in Fort Walton Beach. Stand Downs are typically one- to three-day events providing supplies and services to homeless veterans, such as food, shelter, clothing, health screenings and VA Social Security benefits counseling. Veterans can also receive referrals for other assistance, such as health care, housing solutions, employment, substance use treatment and mental health counseling. They are collaborative events, coordinated between local VA Medical Centers, government agencies, and community-based homeless service providers.

For the youth at Okaloosa Youth Academy, they were given an opportunity to earn community service hours at the event.  Also, it was a chance to expose the youth to different supportive agencies that might be located in their communities.  The youth enjoyed volunteering at the event, and they appreciated the chance of serving disabled veterans. 

This is the 11th year for the Stand Down, and it provided services to 96 Veterans and 80 Non-Vets, 176 total.  136 Male/40 Female.  

Teri Wilson is a licensed marriage and family counselor at Jacksonville Youth Academy, a non-secure program for boys operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions. She brings a wealth of knowledge in the dynamic of family systems. Ms. Wilson encourages families to attend the monthly family sessions held during the week and on Saturdays. During these sessions, the youth work through conflict, substance abuse, and communication issues with their families. This all-inclusive approach to family therapy allows the family to address issues that may have caused the break down in the family and assists the family in finding solutions that will promote relapse prevention. These in-person sessions allow the therapist to teach, guide, motivate, provide feedback, and help the family work through those pressing issues with the goal of returning families to a premorbid level of functioning. All families are welcome to attend the sessions as frequently as possible. Through the sessions, the parents, siblings and familial supports become more knowledgeable of the tools given to the youth and are better able to assist the youth in his transition back home.

Youth from Duval Academy, a non-secure program for boys operated by Sequel, had the chance to attended the NAS Jax Air Show at the Naval Base in Jacksonville. They enjoyed watching the planes perform the different maneuvers and they were amazed by the show that the Blue Angels performed! The youth had a great time!

A few days later, a graduation ceremony was held by Duval Academy for youth C.H.! He obtained his GED while at the program. Everyone is proud of his hard work and determination! In addition to his GED, the youth received a Duval Academy Class Ring!

Youth at Duval Academy also celebrated Halloween by receiving bags of candy given to them by staff dressed for the holiday. It was a fun day and the youth enjoyed their candy and the staff costumes!

The youth at Marion Youth Academy, a non-secure program for boys operated by Sequel, had an awesome evening on Halloween. Several youth had the opportunity to have their faces painted and perform the Michael Jackson "Thriller" dance. The youth, along with staff member Mrs. Heath-Williams, put together a dance routine to battle against Mr. Darius J., who came as a special guest to perform as Michael Jackson. All the staff and youth participated in the event by decorating, making costumes, dancing, and socializing. This allowed for setting an atmosphere of fun and laughter. All the youth received candy bags, cake, and other goodies. Staff took part in serving the youth and in the dance battle. Thanks to the Marion County Education Department for participating in the event.

Throughout the month of October, Bartow Youth Academy, a non-secure program for boys operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, youth and staff celebrated Breast Cancer Awareness by wearing pink awareness shirts, and learning more about breast cancer statistics. Youth created a Breast Cancer Awareness Ribbon wall, formed awareness ribbons on the perimeter fence with pink cups, obtained important facts about breast cancer awareness activities held throughout the world, and wrote encouragement cards for cancer warriors and survivors during the month’s art and play therapy groups.

Lake Academy, a non-secure program for boys operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, celebrated Halloween with a haunted house for the girls. The staff decorated the administration area as a hospital, and the youth had to walk through a maze to enter. Before being allowed to exit, the girls had to guess what was inside three mystery boxes. The girls and staff had a great time and everyone enjoyed the Halloween maze.

It was an extraordinary day at Miami Youth Academy (MYA), a non-secure program for boys operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, when the program provided some much needed support to two teenagers embarking on parenthood. Youth B.R. was granted special visitation for his fiancé and her mother to join Youth B.R. for a surprise baby shower. TrueCore provided bedding, diapers and a bottle kit, while many of the Miami Youth Academy staff and educatorsprovided various gifts.

It's been a while since MYA has hosted a baby shower and this was quite a celebration. Youth B.R. plays eight musical instruments and he performed a special serenade to his fiancée and mother-to-be to their baby.

Youth B.R. began applying for numerous job opportunities while in the initial phase of his transitioning and was motivated by recognizing his parental responsibility. With the help of Transition Services Manager Brittany Ashley, youth B.R. pressed his clothes and presented for an employment interview with Macaroni Grill in Kendall. Best of luck to Youth B.R.!  

Youth from Okeechobee Intensive Halfway House, a non-secure program for boys, and four youth from Okeechobee Youth Treatment Center, a secure program for boys, both of which are operated by TrueCore Behavioral Solutions, assisted with the distribution of food to very appreciative local Okeechobians. The youth earned community service hours while performing the good deed. They packaged up food bags and boxes while the staff loaded them into the waiting vehicles. There were over 200 cars lined up awaiting a gift from the food bank.

This is a small portion of an ongoing community outreach initiative the Okeechobee campus has with Mayor Watford and the Okeechobee community.